Donna McKechnie looks back in "Same Place: Another Time" at Barrington Stage Company
PITTSFIELD >> Tony Award-winning actress-singer-dancer Donna McKechnie is in a reflective mood these days. Her reflections are finding expression in cabaret show, "Same Place: Another Time," which she is bringing to Barrington Stage Company's Mr. Finn's Cabaret in the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center Sunday and Monday evening.
This is not the first time McKechnie has used song, narrative and dance — a testament to her success in battling back from crippling rheumatoid arthritis in the late '70s that threatened to end her dancing career — to tell the story of her life in theater. She's done it three other time, most notably with "Inside the Music," which she created in the mid-'90s with the help of playwright Christopher Durang. The two-act show tracks her life and career from the time she ran away from her home in Pontiac, Mich. at the age of 15 to find fame and fortune in New York, with a healthy sampling of the musical numbers that fueled that career, including "The Music and the Mirror," her standout solo turn as Cassie, a character based in large measure on herself, in "A Chorus Line" that netted her a Tony Award in 1976 for Best Actress in a Musical.
"Same Place: Another Time" zeroes in on the de ade of the Seventies. Its first performances in January 2013 were at 54 Below — a fashionable cabaret/restaurant on W. 54th Street in New York on the lower level of Studio 54, once a trendy disco, now a theater. The time and the place hopld sopecial memories for Mckechnie.
"The first time I went to see a show at 54 Below," McKechnie said in an email interview, "I had a déjà vu feeling. I was walking into the same building where Studio 54 used to be. Memories from the past came flooding back, along with people and the music of the times."
It was the time of "A Chorus Line," which came to Broadway in 1975. After evening performances, McKechnie recalled, she and members of the cast would go to Studio 54 "and dance the night away," she said, "along with Mick Jagger, Halston and Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol, Nureyev, Grace Jones, Diana Vreeland."
McKechnie's first New York apartment was on 54th Street.
"Same Place: Another Time" includes material by, among others, Peter Allen, Jim Croce, Marvin Hamlisch and Stephen Sondheim. She's developed the show with her music director, John McDaniel. Her first audiences were close friends and professionals who gave her, she said, "feedback and constructive criticism."
"Same Place: Another Time" has been designed for small, intimate spaces, like Mr. Finn's Cabaret, but McKechnie sees what the show would look like if it were to be performed on a large stage. "I could open up the dance in the staging," she says.
Nevertheless, intimacy suits her for a show that is all about memory and going to personal places.
"Going back to the '70s let me recreate for the audience the stories of my life as a young dancer and a hopeless romantic trying to hold on to her dream and her innocence," she said.
"I call this show a musical déjà vu."
What: "Same Place — Another Time." Created and performed by Donna McKechnie
Who: Barrington Stage Company
When: 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday
Where: Mr. Finn's Cabaret, Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center, 36 Linden St., Pittsfield
How: (413) 236-8888; barringtonstageco.org; in person at Barrington Stage box office — 30 Union St.
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